"There is a war going on and the war is within Islam."
In one short sentence, 29-year-old Karim Jivraj, the Conservative candidate in the federal riding of Rosedale-University in downtown Toronto, summed up the crisis that dominates political discourse today, including in Canada and the U.S.
Jivraj was speaking Sunday at an all-party debate hosted by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW). There he found himself under attack by Liberal, NDP and Green candidates from other ridings, as well as the audience of young professional Muslim women, many in hijab, many of whom gave him the hostile treatment of silent glares and rolling eyes.
If we are seeing a war within Islam, the CCMW debate — or "panel discussion" as they called it — was an illustration of it at the local level.
On the one hand, here was Jivraj, an exuberant young Muslim man who is a son of refugees from Uganda. He was beaming with confidence, extolling the virtues of the West and Canada, urging his fellow Muslims to rid themselves of self-inflicted victimhood, to take advantage of the opportunities of living here and to soar to any heights they wished.
Karim Jivraj, a Conservative Party candidate for parliament, says there is a war between Muslims who "believe in pluralism and tolerance" and those who don't.
Jivraj's positive attitude was in contrast to the gloom and doom scenario of racism and "Islamophobia" painted by the other political candidates.
The irony that they, as Muslim immigrants or children of Muslim immigrants, are running for the Canadian Parliament, two of them — the Liberal and NDPer — with a good chance of winning, was lost on them.
Canada is not the only country where Muslims are a minority and where conservative Islamists don leftist garb to rub in victimhood among the young. This is the norm in the U.S., Britain, Europe and it is most pronounced in India.
But on the positive side, Jivraj is not alone in his optimistic outlook. Zameer Uddin Shah, vice-chancellor of India's most prominent seat of Muslim education, Aligarh Muslim University, said Monday: "There is no discrimination on religious grounds. ... The (Muslim) community just rues about discrimination which is non-existent."
Wherever Muslims are a minority, Islamists don leftist garb to rub in victimhood among the young.
During the Toronto debate, Jivraj slammed those who see the "barbaric practices hotline" proposed by the Conservative government as an example of anti-Muslim bigotry.
"There are honour killings taking place not in Mosul or Baghdad, but in cities like Kingston and Mississauga," he reminded them.
Predictably, some women in the crowd scoffed at him, as did the other candidates.
But Jivraj was correct when he said, "It's a war between those (Muslims) who believe in pluralism and tolerance," and those who don't, including the minority who kill in the name of Islam.
But I'd argue there is a third group.
Muslim nationalists see Muslims as a "team" and themselves as cheerleaders.
They are what I refer to as Muslim nationalists, who see Muslims as a "team" and themselves as that team's cheerleader or fan base.
This group includes another son of immigrants from Africa, Mayor Nahed Nenshi of Calgary .
Nenshi recently told a symposium in Stratford, Ont., where he defended the right of women to wear the niqab at citizenship ceremonies: "That label of terrorist is thrown around with disturbing regularity ... It's targeted language that nearly always describes an act of violence by someone who shares my faith."
I asked Jivraj to react to his fellow Muslim's support of the niqab.
"It's very unhelpful," he said. "The niqab has no place in Islam."
The reality that appears to evade Mayor Nenshi is that most terrorists today are Muslims and most of their victims are Muslims as well.
Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.